Food Tech is Booming, Will It Be Good For Bronx Residents?
Technology is constantly changing the way we produce and consume food. From using apps to get groceries delivered, to LED lights that make it easier and cheaper to grow food indoors to being able to track supply chains in real time—food tech is on display every day in the Bronx.
On Friday, January 25, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s office, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, The Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan College of New York, hosted a Bronx Food Tech event that looked at how the food tech industry is growing, and the opportunities it’s providing for residents.
“We are the Silicon Valley for food tech and the mission is so worthwhile – Bronx innovation is bringing healthy, fresh food to more and more families across America who before couldn’t afford it. We are also materially reducing food waste,” said Lincoln White, Chief Information Officer, FultonFishMarket.com, who spoke on the first panel about Food and Tech in the Bronx.
Over the course of the morning, politicians, business owners, food policy experts, and residents discussed what is food and tech, how residents are and can connect to food, and what the future of the industry holds.
“There is an incredible vibe and excitement around food and tech in NY, and specifically in the Bronx. I was blown away by how the Bronx residents are taking charge of their own destiny,” said Charles Platkin, Executive Director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center who spoke on a panel about "The Future of Food Tech – Innovations and Bronx Highlights.”
Those highlights are as varied as the Bronx. There are small businesses such as Traillo the company created by Bronx food-tech entrepreneur Jose Salcedo, which delivers Latin foods and groceries within 60 minutes. There’s Baldor Foods, one of the largest produce distributors in the Northeast that happens to call the Bronx home, and managed to eliminate food waste from its production in 2017. There’s FultonFishMarket.com and NebraskaLand using food tech to make food safer and there’s Fresh Direct using technology to make it faster to shop for groceries.
But as exciting as the food tech industry can be, there are also be downsides both for consumers and workers.
“Often, there are clear winners to disruptive technologies in the food space - whether they be customers or companies. For instance, the ability for a busy parent to order groceries online, skip the crowds and pick it up packaged or even have it delivered within a few hours, a convenience that we are aware is lacking for consumers using SNAP/EBT. I'm wondering how do we get more for-profit companies focusing on creating this type of disruptive technology for underserved communities?” Platkin said.
“Increasing interest in food technology is great for businesses and consumers, however, there are some areas where entry levels jobs may be replaced,” said It is important for the workforce to educate themselves as much as possible and to have relevant experience to perform many of the new jobs that are being created in food tech,” said Daniel Romanoff President of NebraskaLand.
One solution to some of those issues may be found in encouraging and supporting more entrepreneurs as they start their own businesses.
“A young person in the Bronx with a great idea should be able to start up a business quickly without a lot of expense and red tape,” said White.
What exactly and how the Bronx could do that is still up for discussion. At the event, Platkin suggested the creation of a food-tech incubator supported by major Bronx food companies along with the local government.